NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory images helped a team of scientists including scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Varanasi and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics located in Bangalore observe a magnetic explosion that has never been seen before.
It confirms a decade-old theory that could help scientists unravel mysteries about the Sun’s atmosphere, predict space weather better and also help with breakthroughs in the controlled fusion and lab plasma experiments according to studies published in The Astrophysical Journal.
"This was the first observation of an external driver of magnetic reconnection,” said Abhishek Srivastava, a solar scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU). “This could be very useful for understanding other systems. For example, Earth’s and planetary magnetospheres, other magnetized plasma sources, including experiments at laboratory scales where plasma is highly diffusive and very hard to control,” Srivastava added.
The study showed that in the upper side of the Sun’s atmosphere, there is a prominence; a large loop of material hurled by an eruption on the surface of the Sun. the prominence started to fall back towards the surface of the sun but before it could make it, it ran into magnetic field lines, causing a magnetic explosion. Scientists had previously seen explosive snaps and the realignment of tangled magnetic field lines on the Sun (magnetic reconnection) but they had never seen one that had been triggered by a nearby eruption.
Unraveling the mystery of how magnetic reconnection can be forced in a controlled way can help plasma physicists replicate the reconnection in the lab.